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Preterm Birth Increase Risk of Asthma and Wheezing Disorders During Childhood

Premature Baby in the GrassBabies before 37 weeks of pregnancy have an increased risk for a number of short-term and long-term health complications. Now a new study suggests that preterm birth increases the risk of asthma and wheezing disorders during childhood. Additionally, the risk increases as the degree of prematurity increases.

Asthma is a chronic disorder that causes the airways of the lungs to swell and narrow, leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. Untreated asthma can be fatal.

Approximately 11 percent of babies throughout the world are born prematurely.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) in Boston, Massachusetts in collaboration with researchers from the Maastricht University Medical Centre and Maastricht University School of Public Health in the Netherlands and The University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of 30 studies that investigated the link between prematurity and asthma risk.

The studies ranged a time span from 1995 to present and included 1.5 million children.

According to the analysis, 13.7 percent of babies born prematurely developed asthma or wheezing disorders compared to 8.3 percent of babies born at term. The difference represents a 70 percent increased risk. Babies born very early (before 32 weeks) have approximately three times the risk of developing asthma or other wheezing disorders compared to babies born at term.

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States Aziz Sheikh, MD, corresponding author and Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “Worldwide, more than 11 percent of babies are born preterm. As asthma is a chronic condition, our findings underscore the need to improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the association between preterm birth and asthma/wheezing disorders in order to develop preventive and therapeutic interventions.”

Two other recent studies found that drinking alcohol during the first three months of pregnancy increases the risk of giving birth to a premature or unexpectedly small baby and that the maternal diet during pregnancy can significantly affect the risk of giving birth prematurely. Conversely, breastfeeding significantly decreases the risk of asthma and related wheezing disorders.

References

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Pre-term Birth Leads to Increased Risk of Asthma, Wheezing Disorders: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140307111058.htm
Preterm Birth and Childhood Wheezing Disorders: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001596
Preterm Birth May Increase the Risk of Asthma and Wheezing Disorders During Childhood: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/273771.php

Image Credits

Premature Baby in the Grass: http://www.freeimages.com/photo/916239

Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cats. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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